Purchasing when you live out of state…What to expect

Picture of Author: Rich Barnhart

Author: Rich Barnhart

Find Out If Virtual House Hunting is Right for You

The housing market here in the Fort Lauderdale area is still on fire.  Single family homes and condos are selling within days of coming on the market which makes it especially difficult if you are a buyer who lives out of state.  

Shopping for a home should be an exciting time.  Taking time going through listings and figuring out which homes and neighborhoods you like usually takes time and careful consideration.  Driving through neighborhoods and visiting different condo buildings has always been the best way for buyers to get acquainted with an area.  Buyers who live out of state would often identify a few properties that they like and then make arrangements to fly or drive down and take a look at the properties in person before making a decision. With homes selling within the first few days on the market this is really no longer an option.  

Fort Lauderdale Virtual Home Tour
Virtual Open House Showing Or Online Tour

What To Expect With The Current Market Conditions

With waterfront properties, oceanfront condos and pretty much anything within driving distance of the beaches being in such high demand, the purchasing experience has changed quite a bit and there isn’t time to waste. 

As real estate agents in this market we have adapted to selling homes virtually.  We arrange property showings via Facetime, Google Meet, Skype and Zoom.  Sometimes buyers have to settle for a video tour before making an offer if travel is impractical given the tight time frames to make a decision. 

Home shopping this way is definitely not for everyone so there are some things that you can do to prepare yourself for purchasing in this very busy, virtual market.

  1. If you need to finance your purchase, then you should absolutely get pre-approved before you start virtually viewing properties with your agent.  Know what you are approved for and and what your monthly payments will be, including taxes, insurance and association fees if applicable.
  2. If you are paying cash make sure you know where your cash is coming from.  Most sellers will request “proof of funds” via a bank statement or letter from your financial advisor.  Know how quickly you will have access to those funds to purchase.  If you are planning to refinance or sell another property to access funds then you should initiate that process as soon as possible in order to convince the seller that they should take your offer seriously.
  3. Put together a list of must haves and know what you are willing to compromise on. Finding the perfect home is difficult in any market, so don’t set your expectation too especially if putting a roof over your head is more important than finding your dream home.
  4. Be ready to act quickly.  When you find something that you are interested in have your agent schedule a virtual showing right away. Share times that you will be available and be as flexible as possible.
  5. If you have to make an offer on a property without seeing it in person, have a plan to come for a tour during the home inspection to make your final decision. Sellers will often require a contingency that you see the property in person within a set period of time.
  6. Find a local real estate agent who is an excellent communicator and who you have a good rapport with.  Viewing photos on the internet can be deceiving since making the property look its best is the goal of the photographer and the listing agent.  Purchasing a home without seeing it in person requires an agent who is willing to show any possible deficiencies as well as the best features.
  7. Make sure your agent is willing to show you what you need to know in order to make a decision.  Taking photos of a neighborhood or getting on Facetime to show building amenities takes time and top notch customer service.  Find someone willing to work for you so that you feel comfortable and confident putting in an offer “sight unseen”.  
  8. Pay for a home inspection with a reputable home inspection company.  You should receive a detailed report about the property condition complete with photos, a summary and cost estimates for any recommended repairs or replacements. The idea is to learn about your new property and if something major does come up, then you always have the option of cancelling the contract or renegotiating with the seller.
  9. Communicate with your agent about the closing process.  In most cases you won’t have to be in the the area for closing. We do “mail away” and virtual closings all the time. Most title companies can make arrangements for you to sign all of your documents with a mobile notary and your closing funds can be wired to the title company on or before the day of closing
  10. Buyers remorse is a bad feeling and that is not good for anyone. If you are not comfortable buying real estate this way don’t do it.  Try this:  Do some research with your agent and identify some neighborhoods and condo buildings that meet your criteria then plan a trip down to visit those places.  That way when something comes on the market in one of those areas you will be better prepared to move forward with an offer.

The moral of the story is when you live out of the area, working with a real estate agent has never been more important to help you know what to expect and how to prepare for your purchase. Find an agent who will help to prepare you both emotionally and financially, and also help answer any questions or concerns you may have.  Working together with your agent and finding the right home should be a smooth and fun experience.  

Happy House Hunting!

Blog Author:

Rich Barnhart

Rich is the broker and owner of By The Sea Realty and a frequent contributor to the company's real estate blog.

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